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REVIEW: Nikon D7100

By Paul Nuttall | Monday | 22/04/2013

Key Features: 23.5 x 15.6mm CMOS sensor, 24.61MP effective resolution; 1080p full HD video at 30fps; ISO 100 - 25600; 3.2in, 1229k-dot LCD screen; Up to 6fps burst mode.

Nikon's DSLR range recently saw an update of the now three-year old D7000 with the new D7100. Although the new model has hit the market rather unexpectedly, considering that Nikon has the DSLR enthusiast market relatively well covered with the D90 and D300/D300s, it has proved very popular with its match of features and form. 

Nikon has gathered features found across its DSLR stable and combined them with revisions, such as the updated sensor, added video feathers and new auto-focus (AF) module among others. This is one of the most well rounded DSLRs we've reviewed to date. 



Nikon D7100 - Design
On first impressions, Nikon has chosen to maintain the enthusiast DSLR template adopted in the D7000. The Nikon D7100 feels solid, with a blend of magnesium alloy and polycarbonate creating a hardy yet lightweight shell. While it might not be as sturdy as say, the Nikon D800, the body more than matches the D7100's enthusiast billing.

New additions and modifications to the Nikon D7100 include a new 'i' button on the rear of the camera, along with the relocation of the video record button to the model's top plate. The top plate itself is essentially the very same as that found on the Nikon D600, bar the microphones on the camera's top plate. The mode dial and the drive mode dials have the same locking button mechanism as the D600 - it's a useful way to stop them being accidentally rotated, but they're a pain to use.



That small bug bear aside, however, the Nikon D7100 handles excellently. 

Features
At the core of the Nikon D7100 sits a DX-format sensor with a resolution of 24.1MP, much like the Nikon D5200, although it's important to point out that the two sensors are not the same. The sensor found here sees Nikon omit the anti-aliasing filter with a view towards better detail retention, although there can be issues with false colour patterning as a result of the aforementioned absence.

The sensor itself has exactly the same ISO sensitivity range as that found on the Nikon D7100, running from ISO 100-6400 and extendable to ISO 25,600. The sensor also supports full HD video capture at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 at up to 30fps, or up to 60fps if you're prepared to shoot at standard HD resolution of 720p. A pair of on-board microphones adds stereo sound support, and there's a mic socket to fit an external one, too.

The camera applies a 1.5x crop factor to any attached lens - for example, a 50mm prime will turn in to a 75mm when attached. There's also a 1.3x crop factor mode at a reduced 15.4MP (vs. 24.1MP native) for improved performance with attached lenses - with this mode active, said 50mm lens would behave like a 98mm optic, should you so wish.



Other new features include a new auto focus module, which has 51 AF points with 15 cross-type AF points - a boost from 39 and nine found in the D7000 - that promises to bring a better level of performance to the enthusiast. The Nikon D7100 also has the Expeed 3 imaging engine, the same as in the Nikon D4, which means it takes an impressive six frames per second. 

There are a few completely new features that debut on the Nikon D7100, too. One of these is Spot White Balance, which lets you set the camera's white balance for the whole scene from picking just one area of the scene. Another is the redesigned LCD screen that Nikon's has been rolling out across its cameras of late, which the lacks the air gap found on previous models and promises clearer images.

Performance
The Nikon D7100 is clearly a very well thought out and put together DSLR. Its new screen is a major plus. It's not just the larger-than-average 3.2in LCD screen, as well as the 1224k-dot resolution, but bright, vivid colours and outstanding viewing angles. It's as clear as any DSLR screen going. The viewfinder is just as good, so you always get a clear idea of what you're shooting and the end result.



As you'd hope for a DSLR pitched at enthusiast photographers, the D7100 is pleasingly prompt and responsive in use. One flick of the power switch has the camera prepared and ready for image capture in an instant. The only real slowdown comes when shooting to Raw files to the memory card - a single image is no problem, but if you go to shoot a second file there is a slight delay before it's displayed on the screen. 

It's also worth noting that the D7100 has a slightly limiting Raw burst depth of just six frames, despite having a Raw burst speed of 6fps. This means you'll encounter slowdown when shooting a burst of images in just a second, and while you should be able to capture the image you need in that period, it's far from desirable. 

But there is a workaround to achieve longer burst depths - select the lossy 12bit capture mode as opposed to the 14bit lossless mode, the depth can be extended to nine frames. There's a workaround when it comes to speed, as well - if you're happy to work in a 1.3x crop mode you'll be able to manage a burst speed of 7fps.



The Nikon D7100 is available as a body only option. Should you wish to purchase the camera as a kit you'll scoop the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm F/3.5-5.6G ED VR. This lens offers near silent focusing, which is pleasing, while vibration reduction system is also visibly effective.
Nikon D7100 - Image Quality
Note - See Nikon D7100 photos tab above for sample shots

As you'd expect from a Nikon DSLR, and especially a Nikon DSLR aimed towards the enthusiast photographer, the D7100 generally takes great photos. It produces accurate and lifelike colours - the Auto White balance System rarely struggles. The only situation in which it does is in scenes little colour in them. It is, however, easy to avoid the cooler results in these situations by selecting the Auto2 AWB mode provided by Nikon which offers warmer results as standard.

Exposures are very good, too. The Nikon D7100 copes with almost all shooting situations with aplomb, and when it does appear to struggle the Active D-Lighting manages shadows just fine.

The high-resolution sensor and absence of any anti-aliasing filter means that the Nikon D7100 resolves an impressive level of detail. Technical testing revealed that at ISO 100 the level of detail resolved is on a par with the full-frame Sony Cyber-shot RX1 - no small feat.

Unfortunately, the story isn't as good as when it comes to image noise - although this is affected by a number of factors, gritty texture can be seen at settings as low as ISO 400 in most scenes. Although this can be managed, it does rob the scenes of fine detail.

Verdict
There's no denying that the D7100 is an incredibly well-rounded DSLR with one of the most complete enthusiast DSLR feature-sets we've seen to date. The lack of an anti-aliasing filter gives images a pleasing crispness, while metering and White Balance systems are also difficult to fault. 

Despite all of this, there are faults. Most noticeably, the high saturation of pixels on the sensor means that images are nosier at lower ISO settings then one would hope. The burst mode is disappointing, too.

There's no denying that the D7100 is a fantastic enthusiast DSLR that is sure to gain a host of admirers. But doesn't quite do enough earn a unreserved recommendation. The D7100 is available through most DSLR retailers from between $1, 066 for the body alone to $3, 598 for a more extensive lens kit. 

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Reviewed by Paul Nuttall Rating: 0